Live Streaming Revisited and Improved

You’ll remember (or perhaps not) that I had some surprising success last year live streaming an event here know as Lessons and Carols.  Last year, it was a simple one camera in the back of the Chapel hooked into my MacBook Pro.  I had a wireless network that I patched into and streamed the event using Ustream.tv.

I was shocked when hundreds tuned in to watch the event live and another 1,600 or so have watched the video.  In the spring I increased the degree of difficulty by adding a second camera, and basically jerry-rigging a way to combine the two streams using two MacBook Pros and Skype.

I didn’t want to go through that again, so I consulted with my now real world (formerly just Twitter) friend Hans Mundahl at New Hampton School.  Here’s the set-up I came up with.  Of course, I did this all the week before the event.  Why do things in August when you can do them under the gun.

Materials:

2 cameras (one decent, one not)

1 Digital Recorder (I use this as an external Mic.  You could just use the camera mic)

2 8-pin to 4-pin FireWire cables

2 8-pin FireWire cables

2 100 ft Cat 5 (ethernet) cables

4 Cat 5 to 8-pin FireWire converter boxes

1 iMac connected to the Intertubes

3 extension cords

3 power strips

The Boxes

These little babies were the key to having two cameras (that and the iMac with two FireWire inputs).  I’m not going to mention that it took me an entire day to figure out why they weren’t working only to realize that the iMac’s software hadn’t been updated since the Bush administration.

Video over cat-5 has a range of 300m (330ft for us Americans).  This allowed me to set up the cameras at opposite side of the Chapel, and run the cables underneath the floor, along the wall, and into the sacristy in the back of the Chapel where I was set up with my iMac.  I simply set the camera up, plugged in the FireWire to the camera and then to the converter box, plugged the cat-5 into the box and turned on the power.  That cat-5 ran into another converter box and from there I ran an 8-pin FireWire from the box directly into the iMac.

Feeding the stream directly into the iMac meant that I didn’t need to deal with a video mixer or any other equipment.  I did end up having to purchase Ustream’s Producer Pro which I think was maybe $100 or $200, but way cheaper and easier than a mixer.  Here’s what my screen looked like:

The one problem I ran into (which resulted in F bombs in the sacristy) was a bandwidth issue.  The system kept freezing and crashing for the first 30 minutes until I turned down the quality of the stream.  It turns out that we don’t have very fast upload speeds here and even though I was hardwired in, I was trying to push water from a fire hose through a soda straw.  Once I turned it down to the lowest setting, everything started working just fine.  We had 300 watch it live, and the recording has been seen over 1,000 times as well.  The video is up on Vimeo.  Pro Tip: With Ustream you can sign up to suppress ads for one month, and then cancel.  If you download your video before you cancel, it doesn’t have ads.  You can then upload it to Vimeo where you will have a video of your event without annoying David Hasselhoff ads.  

The Bill

This year wasn’t cheap.  I probably spent close to $1,500 to get everything set up and we did pay to suppress ads.  $1,000 of that was a one-time cost though, and I should have to spend any more on the tech stuff unless I want to upgrade my cameras (which I do).

Thanks again to @hansmundahl for all of the help!

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